My palms began to sweat and I sunk deeper into the seat. She threatened an electric rotating brush near the corner of my eyesight while she prodded, "And so how long…?" The wheezing sound forced a minty fresh taste around my teeth and tongue.
The strong mint overpowered my senses and I hesitated, "The Appalachian Trail is two-thousand one-hundred and sixty miles." I could see she was mulling over questions as she echoed the figure back to me, and I continued to further clarify my answer. "So about five months, maybe longer, depending on the weather." She shoved the toothbrush in during the last portion about weather and I choked on the second syllable full of minty freshness.
"And so, what? You're going to stay in a hotel the whole time? Cause that gets expensive; or are you like gonna stay in the woods with the bugs and the spiders and the…mosquitoes?" She gave me no time to talk and so I nodded in response to the woods part. As she dug around my mouth, the brush sped from tooth to tooth in the rhythm of her voice. "Oh… my… Gawd… Ohmygawd. I could never. Oh my gawd. Yuck. With the bugs and crazy backwoodspeople and…oh…I could never. Sleeping with the bugs? Eeewe. . . .Spit."
I sat up from the blue reclining chair under the fluorescent light and drooled into the white ceramic sink. After peeling the line of drool and gobs of toothpaste from my lower lip, I took a sip of water and spit forcefully into the small round bowl of cleanliness trying to get dental approval for not having a third trail of slobber. I defended myself, "Well it won't be too bad, it's like going camping."
"The only place I like to camp is in a nice warm hotel room with a whirlpool bathtub. Yuck, bugs…" I could see her face cringe at the thought of the dirty woods and then after a quick shudder upon speaking the word, "bug," she turned off the toothbrush and snatched the scythe-like object from the metal table. "Rinse." Looking at the object too fondly, she politely orders, "Okay, lie back, please." I obeyed and my reluctant mouth opened. "Turn your head more towards me," her fingertips began to turn my head toward her, her other hand gripping metal. The back of my head turned right and sunk deeper into the creases of the chair as the scraping began. She looked into my exposed mouth, assessing her point of attack, and then she moved in for the kill.
Every nerve ending twitched and each tooth shuddered as the metal moved closer. She continued her questioning, "Okay, so what are you going to do for food?" Over and over, the metal grated and screeched a tone that only a dental instrument could produce inside one's mouth. I suffered the chair, my mind attempting to form letters or words to respond to her questioning. She wiped the pearly gunk, which I swore were parts of my teeth, on the bib…then the grating continued. After a lifetime of tooth decay was extracted from my mouth and displayed on the tissue paper resting on my chest, she reached out and set the grappling hook down. I sighed deeply hoping this was the end of the cleaning, until she scooped up the grayish-green paste from the plastic container with the brush.
She plunged it in my sore mouth for a final swabbing. "I mean, you can't carry around six months worth of food can you? And where do you put all of it anyways?" She pulled the vibrating cleaning devise from my mouth mid-swab yearning to hear an acceptable response to this question.
"Well," I tried to speak with the potent liquefied paste still swashing side-to-side from the after-effects of the shaking toothbrush. "You have a pack you carry, kinda like a turtle carries his home on his back…" I gurgled on "turtle" and practically swallowed the word "home." She slightly nodded, somehow understanding the dental office language. Nodding her head once more, I continued, "And every four to seven days you can stop in a town."
"Ah, so you can kinda restock then." She scrubbed with the brush, which felt like wet sandpaper against my teeth. She paused, maybe not fully convinced of the true beauty of experiencing nature, then she responded. "Still could never do it. Never-ever. Nope…oh and what about bathing? Are you gonna go for seven days without a bath? Because I…" She was flabbergasted. She slowly set the toothbrush down and regained her composure. With one more chance to break me, she reached for the small floss rope. "Rinse and lean back, please." I watched her triple wrap the floss around her index fingers, and with a flick of her wrists, she pulled it taut as a noose around each tooth. Bits of food and blood and enamel blasted through the air. To sadistically reveal the damage she inflicted, she held the tiny mirror to my lip; my soft pink gums seemed to dangle, coated in red. Afterwards, she wiped the remains on my tissue paper shroud.
I continue, my mouth nearly comatose, "Well, the bathing part really isn't that bad actually cause..."
"You know what? I don't even want to know," she declared, and in the next moment of silence, the corners of my bruised mouth turned upwards to smile. She retreated toothbrush, scythe, and floss from my mouth, and the resonating in my ears slowly ceased. Then, she reached above me, and I recoiled into the chair thinking of the other sharp prodding instruments I'd seen during other visits. Her fingertips reached out of view from my pinhead pupils as I squeezed deeper into the seat; then she pushed away the blinding light, and clicked the switch to "off."
"Okay," she smiled, "now rinse."
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